Politics versus Science in the Making of a New Regulatory Regime for Food in Europe
The European Union's new food regulatory regime can be understood as a political, rather than science-based solution to the problem of recurrent food crises that have threatened the foundations of the single market. The failure of first, mutual trust and subsequently, its remedy, comitology, led to calls for an agency solution. The question of whether to invest an agency with the three powers of risk assessment, communication, and management can be understood as a struggle to define the role of the scientist in the management of regulatory policy. Scientists base their recommendations on probabilities; politicians are accountable to a public that expects government to guarantee zero risk. The outcome, a European Food Authority (EFA), preserves the management function and the Rapid Alert System within the Commission. EFA's success will rest on the harmonization of food law in Member States and the creation of a network between the EFA and Member State food agencies. Satisfaction of these goals, in turn, depends upon transparency, open communication, and willingness to cooperate. An unintended consequence of the new regulatory regime for food may be to strengthen corporate food producers and accelerate food homogeneity within Europe. These processes carry their own set of problems regarding interest group behavior, unconventional political behavior, and voter mobilization. We close the paper with recommendations for future research.
accountability; agency theory; BSE crisis; institutionalism; integration theory; interest intermediation; neo-functionalism; policy networks; regulatory politics; transparency; European Food Agency; political science; law
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